Perhaps you are new to management? Perhaps you are well-established in a management role, but a bit of a novice when it comes to hiring? Maybe you’re an experienced recruiter and are part of a panel supporting the hiring of new graduates? Whatever the situation, having influence, even the ultimate decision authority to hire someone, is a great privilege and responsibility.
This isn’t just about you, your team, and organisation – it’s about someone’s livelihood, happiness, and wellbeing.
The role of a hiring manager
Your role as a hiring manager is to attract, assess, and hire the right person into your organisation who can fulfil the requirements of the job advertised. For more information on writing job descriptions, read our resource file Job Descriptions or Role Profiles.
Your responsibilities as a hiring manager don’t end there – they go much further.
The responsibilities of a hiring manager
As a hiring manager you are responsible for:
- Representing your company – its brand, values, style, ethics – basically what it does, how it does it, and what it stands for.
- Hiring talent who can do the job required – and in some cases who might have the capability to develop furhter.
- Finding someone who will fit into the team/organisation (not necessarily because they are like you or everyone else, but because they have qualities you need and that resonate with the organisation’s values and how it likes to work).
- Effectively managing any budget associated with the process, ensuring money is spent wisely.
- Paying due consideration to diversity and inclusion when hiring. Evidence suggests that more diverse and inclusive teams are better problem solvers, more creative, and more likely to be successful.
- Ensuring the process is effective, fair, and as bias-free as possible.
- Making sure the candidate experience reflects well on you and your company, such that even if candidates are unsuccessful, they still walk away from the process with good things to say.
Sadly, for many candidates, the attraction and hiring experience is anything but impressive. You can put it down to candidate expectation, time pressure, cost pressure, inexperience, ineptitude, interference from others – whatever you like. The point is, if you were job hunting and interviewing for a role, we’re pretty sure you’d want the process to be an uplifting and pleasant experience. No surprises – most others feel this way too!
How to hire
Deciding the ‘right way’ to attract and hire will depend on the job you are hiring for, the allowable cost to hire, the speed to hire, plus any relevant policies and processes. For example, a low-skilled, lower-paid role might be successfully hired by asking colleagues to recommend people they know. A more specialist role might require the use of a recruitment partner.
Whichever path you choose – hiring over social media, direct recruitment, hiring via a third-party partner, there is every chance that at some stage in the process you will need to ask key questions of candidates. The question is, is there such a thing as the ‘right questions to ask’, and if there isn’t a clear answer to this question, what might be the best way forward?
You can think about the hiring process from the candidate’s point of view by reading our blog on interviews and how to make a good impression.
A good place to start
Let’s begin by considering one possible hiring process, where you are given the responsibility to interview several candidates.
Note: Certain hiring processes may require different approaches – for example, if you are hiring a great Barista for your coffee shop, part of the hiring process might be for them to make you a coffee! Perhaps a simpler interview might take place to check through experience and general fit? If you are hiring a new Finance Business Partner, then understanding their knowledge and technical expertise in managing budgets might be crucial. The formality and structure of the process might also require more structured questioning.
What follows is an example of how the hiring process might go. Pick out the basic elements of the process if you need something simple. Think about a more rigorous use of the process if the role you are hiring for is more complex.
You may decide to interview by phone, over technology, or face to face. Whichever option is selected it’s a good idea to be prepared ahead of time. This doesn’t just mean checking that the technology is working or providing the right refreshments – fundamentally it means being mentally prepared to run and manage an effective interview process.
It’s helpful to think about an interview in stages (even if on the day it doesn’t quite work out this way). Here are 6 core components we think are relevant to any interview:
- The welcoming and settling phase
Here you’d expect the pleasantries to be taken care of – words of welcome, finding a place to sit or checking the technology is all working fine, providing refreshments if meeting face to face, thanking people for attending, introductions (especially if you haven’t spoken to the candidate before) and letting the candidate know how things will proceed.
- The getting to know you phase
Here you’d expect to ask initial exploratory questions about the candidate. This might include things like exploring their CV, asking about their upbringing and general life experience, talking about their interest in the role, or why they think they might bring value to the organisation.
- Going deep on technical fit
By this, we mean discovering what knowledge, skills, and competencies the individual has that makes them a good fit for this job. Here you can explore examples, perhaps testing how they might react or cope with certain situations. These questions should tell you whether the person can technically do the job.
- Going deep on personal fit
By this, we mean exploring the character, traits, beliefs, and values of the individual. Does their style resonate with the type of person that is generally held in high regard in the organisation? Are they open to learning and development? Are they able to build good relationships with work colleagues? These questions should tell you whether the person is someone you and others are likely to be able to work with and get on with.
Note: We’ve experienced plenty of interviews where these softer aspects are forgotten about. If anything, we believe they matter more. You can teach people knowledge and skill. It’s far harder to change someone’s beliefs and values particularly when they might be at odds with your own. We’re not saying this a reason not to hire someone, however, personal character is often the reason people fall out with line managers and end up leaving an organisation.
- Discussing the demands of the role
This is often the phase where the interviewer will do some of the talking (suggesting that in the phases above the candidate should be doing most of the talking!). Here there is an opportunity to discuss the role, the objectives and challenges faced in the role, perhaps how the role supports the goals and objectives of the department. It’s not just a way to let the candidate know more about the role, it’s a way to test whether the candidate is ‘up for’ the challenges to come.
- Allowing the candidate to ask questions
Before explaining the next steps, it’s polite (and useful) to ask the candidate if they have any questions. This may be a short or long process depending on whether this is a first interview or perhaps much closer to a hiring decision.
Please understand, we are not saying this is the only template or way of interviewing. Experienced interviewers can pick up all manner of intelligence by having a very relaxed conversational interview. Other people prefer different kinds of formality or a much lighter touch. This approach – if you and your candidate have the time, would do no harm. You would certainly know the person well after the interview!
Just for a moment then, based on these stages let’s look at a bank of interview questions for managers. Please don’t think you need to ask all these questions – depending on time, and context, just one or two from each section might do.
The welcoming and settling phase
- How are you? How was your journey?
- Would you like a glass of water/cup of tea?
- Let me introduce myself / my colleagues
- Let me confirm the length of the meeting and how we will proceed
- Is the technology ok for you? Can you see and hear me ok?
- Do you have everything you need for today’s interview? The job description, your CV, a notebook and pen, or tablet?
The getting to know you phase
- To start, why don’t you tell me why you applied for this role?
- Why don’t you tell me something about yourself – perhaps a 5-10 minute summary of your CV/experience?
- Tell me about your childhood and family life? What was growing up like for you and how has this shaped who you are today? Note: Some candidates may not want to talk about their childhood or may find the question irrelevant or personally invasive. Obviously, you can move on. We think it’s a pertinent question as our upbringing shapes who we are as people, and this shaping will impact our opinions, beliefs, and values).
- What attracted you to our company?
- What types of roles are you looking for right now?
- Why are you moving jobs/applying for this job now?
- Why did you leave your old job role?
- Can you explain what attracted you to our brand/company?
Going deep on technical fit
- What do you consider the key demands of this job?
- What knowledge do you have that would help you do this job?
- Can you tell me what skills you have that would help you do this job?
- What specific competencies do you have that would enable you to be successful in this job?
- Can you give me specific examples of when you used x, y, or z competence in a job you have held in the past? What did you do? How well did it go?
- Can you tell me when you have been successful using x, y, or z skill in the past? What did you do? How did it go?
- In what ways do you see your past knowledge, skill, and competence fitting with the demands of this job?
- What gaps in your knowledge, skill, or competence might you have that you would need to develop to do this job well?
- How can you see yourself developing your knowledge, skill, or competence in this job?
- What can you tell me about x, y, or z? (e.g. what can you tell me about your knowledge of risk and governance in the financial services sector, or what can you tell me about your understanding of customer relationship management).
- What would you say you are good at technically?
Going deep on personal fit
- How would you describe yourself?
- How would others describe you?
- Is there a difference between how you see yourself and how others see you?
- What do you value most about your working life and career?
- Can you describe your core values – what ways of working matter to you most?
- What do you believe in – what standards are important to you? Why are these standards important to you?
- Can you describe your character – your moral qualities, style, gait, or demeanour?
- How do you work in a team and how would you describe your team style?
- Have previous team members gotten along with you? How would your team colleagues describe you?
- How do you see yourself fitting in here?
- Looking in from the outside, what do you anticipate our company culture to be like?
- What kind of a manager (or leader) are you? How would you describe your management or leadership style?
- Where do you see yourself in six months’ time, one year’s time, or five years’ time?
- Would you like to develop further? If so, in what ways?
- How do you see yourself developing in this role?
Discussing the demands of the role
- What do you consider to be the main challenges for the role?
- In your previous job, what key hurdles/problems did you have to overcome?
- How do you think you would cope with the challenges in this role? What prior experience, knowledge or skill might you draw on? What personal qualities do you possess that might help you in this job?
- Can you give me any examples of when you have overcome or resolved similar problems?
Allowing the candidate to ask questions
This section isn’t just a polite, ‘nice to do’ section. It can be a telling signal of how interested a candidate is in the role. It can give you an idea about how inquisitive and thoughtful a candidate is. It’s worth thinking about possible candidate questions before the interview. Here are some typical questions candidates might ask. Think about what you might say as a result.
- How will this role fit into your team?
- What does this role contribute to the team and department/organisation?
- What are the key deliverables of the role?
- How will success be measured for this role?
- How would you see someone progressing in a role like this? Where might they go further in the organisation?
- How does the organisation develop its people/managers/leaders?
- What training and development are open to employees?
- What are the benefits of working for your company? How do you treat your people?
- What is the reward package like here?
- Can you describe the culture around here?
- Where is the business trying to get to? What are the priorities now/in the future?
- What do you expect from your team? How do you like to work?
- What’s your character like? What kind of person are you?
- How does career progression work here?
- What are the pay grades like here? Is it easy to increase my earnings?
- How do you look after the mental health and wellbeing of your people?
- How diverse and inclusive is the organisation? What are you doing about diversity and inclusion?
- What would you expect from this person within the first 3/6 months?
We’ll stop there as it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list of what candidates might ask. Be prepared to create a little bit of space for giving the interviewee time to ask anything relevant – or alternatively, if time is tight, offer them the option of emailing further questions, particularly if they are successful at stage 1 and will be moving on to stage 2.
Some people might say that asking standard (as well as specialist) interview questions is both boring and lacking in imagination. Unless you are going to talk about the weather, we say no question is irrelevant, if you know why you are asking it!
Picking a few critical questions from our list could make the difference between a poorly constructed interview (that finds out little about the candidate and is a poor experience) and a well-constructed interview, that provides rich detail and a great candidate experience.
For more help on all aspects of being a manager, try our career journaling workbook, ‘Becoming a 1st-time manager‘.
Once you’re through the hiring process you might also like to gift your new employee our journaling workbook, ‘The 1st 90 days in my new job‘ to help them get off to the best start possible.